Mississippi governor Phil Bryant signed a "Religious Freedom" bill on Tuesday, allowing state businesses to refuse services to gay couples, AP reports.
The bill, which will allow state employees to refuse issuing same-sex-marriage licenses, comes a week after lawmakers approved a draft, stating that the law protects those who believe marriage is between a man and a woman and genders are unchangeable.
Privately held businesses would be able to selectively service people who align with their religious beliefs and although the government will still be required to provide services, individuals will not be sanctioned for opting out, avoiding cases like Kim Davis.
House Bill 1523 has received strong criticism from gay-rights groups, who say it enables discrimination.
"This bill merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," wrote the Republican governor in a statement on Twitter.
Supporters of the bill claim that it protects the rights of people who oppose homosexuality yet live in a country where same-sex marriage is legal.
"This bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws," Bryant said. "It does not attempt to challenge federal laws, even those which are in conflict with the Mississippi Constitution, as the Legislature recognizes the prominence of federal law in such limited circumstances."
North Carolina has also enacted a similar law, while Georgia and South Dakota are in talks of proposals.
"This bill flies in the face of the basic American principles of fairness, justice and equality and will not protect anyone's religious liberty," Jennifer Riley-Collins, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, said in a statement. "Far from protecting anyone from 'government discrimination' as the bill claims, it is an attack on the citizens of our state, and it will serve as the Magnolia State's badge of shame."